By David Chircop, Herald Writer
EVERETT — John Lindstrom decided to start bicycling to work 42 years ago, when the car was king and cheap gasoline flowed as freely as coffee at a greasy-spoon cafe.
The trim, retired 70-year-old Everett Community College photography instructor with a close-cropped gray beard is now perhaps Everett’s most tenacious bicycle advocate.
He owns five bikes, and often dons a bright yellow jacket as he pedals along car-choked streets from his home in north Everett to Trader Joe’s on the south end of town.
For a decade, Lindstrom has lobbied city leaders to make Everett’s streets safer and more convenient for bicyclists.
He’s a fixture at City Hall, delivering scores of newspaper clippings and bicycle-related news to city elected leaders and traffic engineers. He keeps tabs on bicycling in Bogota and pedaling in Paris.
He knows bikes and he’s not afraid to share his knowledge.
When it comes to bicycling, “Everett is behind the times,” said Lindstrom, whose bicycle helmet sports a sticker that says “Fight Terrorism, Ride a Bike.”
With rising gas prices and renewed emphasis on environmental and health benefits of bicycling, the city is taking a closer look at designating new bike routes.
Last month, the Everett City Council approved a $66,000 contract with Alta Planning + Design, of Portland, Ore., to create a bicycle transportation plan for the city.
The plan would build on Everett’s existing network of more than 30 miles of bike lanes and attempt to fill numerous gaps in that system.
“We have a lot of disconnected pieces of a bicycle route in place, but we lack the connection,” Everett Council President Drew Nielsen said.
Nielsen, an avid bicyclist who has finished the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic eight times, said the plan will eventually target “low-hanging fruit” that can be implemented without a lot of work or expense.
In the coming months, the company is expected to evaluate existing bike routes and propose new routes, looking at major destinations, such as Boeing Co., the city’s biggest employer, and Everett Riverfront, an outdoor mall and residential development expected to soon sprout up along the Snohomish River.
The company’s contract with the city also calls for working on a plan for an Everett bike sharing program, evaluating management and funding options and looking at examples in Paris, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
“This is moving beyond lines on a map and where should put signage and where we should be putting striping,” said Mike Tresidder, an associate with Alta Planning.
Kristin Kinnamon, a board member of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, said the city’s attempt to become more bike-friendly signals a step away from what she called a traditionally “bike neutral” policy.
Kinnamon, who organizes the annual Bike to Work Month in Snohomish County, commutes by bicycle and bus from her home in Marysville to her job with Community Transit in south Everett.
“Route signage could be a simple solution,” she said.
She unwittingly rode past the Interurban Trial, which parallels I-5 from Everett to near Shoreline, for a year before she realized that she could use it as part of her commute. More signs probably would have helped, she said.
Other ways to improve Everett’s bicycling environment won’t likely be so easy.
The narrow Highway 529 bridge between Everett and Marysville is challenging for bicyclists, especially those traveling on slippery wood slats on the northbound direction. Getting to Boeing’s massive assembly plant on the city’s southwestern fringe is also difficult for bicyclists.
I-5 overpasses in town, such as the new 41st Street interchange, can be perilous for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The newly-opened pedestrian bridge over I-5 helped get Interurban Trail traffic off the busy and dangerous 128th Street SE overpass. But with a price tag of $4.8 million, it’s not likely to be repeated at every busy freeway crossing in town.
Lindstrom, who has taken Everett’s former Mayor Frank Anderson and the city’s current mayor, Ray Stephanson, on bike tours of the city’s waterfront, in an effort to promote a shoreline trail system, said he wasn’t always been such a die-hard bicycling enthusiast.
As a carless teen in Eugene, Ore. in the 1950s, he opted to walk to high school, rather than being seen riding a bicycle.
“Gas was 19 cents a gallon,” he said. “It was the golden age of the automobile.”
Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.